Herb Usage - What herbs do you use with what foods?
BASIL — a natural snipped in with tomatoes; terrific in fresh pesto; other possibilities include pasta sauce, peas, zucchini
CHIVES — dips, potatoes, tomatoes
CILANTRO — Mexican, Asian and Caribbean cooking; salsas, tomatoes
DILL — carrots, cottage cheese, fish, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes
MINT — carrots, fruit salads, parsley, peas, tea
OREGANO — peppers, tomatoes, pastas and all Italian food
PARSLEY — curly leaf is the most common, but the flat-leaf or Italian parsley is more strongly flavored and often preferred for cooking; use in potato salad or with carrots
ROSEMARY — chicken, fish, lamb, pork, roasted potatoes, soups, stews, tomatoes
SAGE — poultry seasoning, stuffing
TARRAGON — chicken, eggs, fish
THYME — eggs, Lima beans, potatoes, poultry, summer squash, tomatoes
WINTER SAVORY — dried bean dishes, stews
When Substituting Fresh Herbs for Dried Herbs - A general guideline when using fresh herbs in a recipe is to use 3 times as much as you would use of a dried herb. When substituting, you will often be more successful replacing fresh herbs for dried herbs, rather than the other way around. For example, think potato salad with fresh vs. dried parsley! What if your recipe calls for fresh herbs and all you have are dried? Here are some approximate amounts of different forms of herbs equivalent to each other:
Instead of 1 tablespoon finely cut fresh herbs use either:
- 1 teaspoon crumbled dried herbs or
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground dried herb
When to Pick or Purchase Herbs - Purchase herbs close to the time you plan to use them. When growing herbs in your own garden the ideal time for picking is in the morning after the dew has dried but before the sun gets hot.
How to Store Fresh Herbs - Fresh herbs can be stored in an open or a perforated plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper drawer for a few days. If you do not have access to commercial perforated bags, use a sharp object to make several small holes in a regular plastic bag. To extend the freshness of herbs, snip off the ends of the stems on the diagonal. Place herbs in a tall glass with an inch of water, like cut flowers. Cover them loosely with a plastic bag to allow for air circulation. Place them in the refrigerator and change the water daily. Herbs may last a week or more stored this way.
How to Wash Herbs - Wash herbs when you are ready to use them. Wash smaller amounts of herbs thoroughly under running water. Shake off moisture or spin dry in a salad spinner. Pat any remaining moisture with clean paper towels. If you are washing a larger amount of herbs at one time, treat them as you would salad greens. Place in a clean sink or deep bowl filled with cold water and swish around. Lift from the water and transfer to another bowl so dirt and grit remain in the water. Pour out the water and repeat the washing process in clean water until dirt and grit are gone and the water is clear.
How to Prepare Herbs for Cooking - For most recipes, unless otherwise directed, mince herbs into tiny pieces. Chop with a chef’s knife on a cutting board or snip with a kitchen scissors. Some recipes may direct you to cut large leaves, such as basil, “chiffonnade-style” or into thin strips. An easy way to do this is to stack several leaves (about 3 to 5), roll into a tight roll, and then cut into thin (1/16 to 1/8 inch) strips with a sharp knife. Be careful if using a food processor to cut herbs — it is easy to turn them to a paste rather than tiny pieces.
When to Add Herbs During Food Preparation - Unlike dried herbs, fresh herbs are usually added toward the end in cooked dishes to preserve their flavor. Add the more delicate herbs — basil, chives, cilantro, dill leaves, parsley, marjoram and mint — a minute or two before the end of cooking or sprinkle them on the food before it is served. The less delicate herbs, such as dill seeds, oregano, rosemary, tarragon and thyme, can be added about the last 20 minutes of cooking. Obviously, for some foods, such as breads, batters, etc., you will need to add herbs at the beginning of the cooking process. Fresh herbs can be added to refrigerated cold foods several hours before serving. Allow time (at least a couple of hours, if possible) for cold foods with herbs to chill helps the flavors to blend.
Freezing Herbs - Recommendations vary on the best way to freeze herbs, how long frozen herbs will maintain a satisfactory flavor and which herbs will freeze well. Be aware that when herbs are frozen, they become limp, lose their color and are best used in cooked foods. The most conservative guidelines for how long herbs will maintain their quality frozen range from two to six months.
The easiest method and one recommended on the National Center for Home Food Preservation Web site states: “Wash, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Wrap a few sprigs or leaves in freezer wrap and place in a freezer bag. Seal and freeze. These can be chopped and used in cooked dishes. These usually are not suitable for garnish, as the frozen product becomes limp when it thaws.